Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 February 2019

Ask Ali: Why the UAE ranks as one of the happiest countries and the style of business email correspondence

In this week's Ask Ali learn what makes the UAE such a happy country and the style of business email correspondence.

Dear Ali: I am a westerner who has recently settled in the UAE. I must admit that people here look more peaceful. Do you have some secrets of happiness or do you not have any upsetting problems? JN, Scotland

Dear JN: Thank you for such an interesting and new question. I admire your observation and feel blessed for this chance to share with you our experience on how we maintain happiness in life. I cannot claim that we do not have problems or that we live an angelic life, but recent reports have said that the UAE is one of the happiest countries in the world. But why are we thus blessed?

At first sight, it’s simply the great leadership that takes care of our country and people, and makes sure that we are able to dream and continue to build our way towards achieving these dreams. This brings about economic stability, which is important in everyone’s life. However, the secret also lies in our culture and religion.

Living for some time in the west, I noticed that more people there tend to analyse their problems to get rid of them. A person can spend hours in therapy to know the reason behind his or her stress. However, here in the east, people do not overanalyse their problems, but simply accept that they’re from God. And to resolve this, they go closer to God, knowing that in the presence of spiritual devotion during their prayers all problems will be solved by the Almighty.

For Muslims, our belief in fate makes us peaceful and accepting of what happens to us. We realise that whatever we do would not prevent this or that from happening. Instead we feel grateful, blessed and, ultimately, happy.

As I always remind my audience, saying “alhamdulillah”, which means “thanks to God”, doesn’t apply only to good news, but also to bad news. Living in a country with 200 nationalities, all speaking one language – which is respect – living and working together in harmony certainly brings great joy and happiness. And I pray that you will experience this with us while living in the Emirates.

Dear Ali: I was recently told by a colleague that I should change my style of business email correspondence. When I asked her to explain why, she said that I have to be less direct and more tolerant, so that people would respect me more. I wonder what that means? AH, United Kingdom

Dear AH: Since I have not seen your business emails, I may not be very precise in giving my advice. However, working with different nationalities, I witness that there are indeed some significant differences in the approach via email correspondence.

Most of the time, as our culture dictates, we should be more interested in the person, and their well-being than in what he or she does. It describes our respect and care for them. I would add that it is more about building your good reputation through business relations, which could be important to you in the future.

I always advise during my cultural sessions to start emails with a warm and welcoming greeting: if it is an Arab or Muslim person, it’s good to start with “assalamu alaykum”, which means “peace be upon you”, or “marhaba”, which means “hello”, followed by inquiring into the recipient’s general well-being and wishing that everything is fine. Only after that, should you start mentioning the business itself.

I would avoid going straight to business at any time as this may give a negative impression and ruin the desire to work together. So, take it easy and try to make your emails a pleasure to read. I am sure your partners and colleagues will notice and appreciate this, and it can even hold you in good stead if anything were to go wrong, professionally, later on.

Ali Al Saloom is a cultural adviser and public speaker from the UAE. Follow @AskAli on Twitter, and visit www.ask-ali.com to ask him a question and to find his guidebooks to the UAE, priced at Dh50.

Updated: October 16, 2014 04:00 AM